By Dawn M. Aerts
Iron County Today
Artists like Carole Foster are rare.
Her studio is a mix of eclectic, traditional and diverse projects, a space that includes everything from calligraphy, and braided horsehair bracelets, to hand-carved stone memorials, and watercolor paintings.
“I love the challenge of figuring out how to letter on non-traditional surfaces like animal hides, skulls, or plaster cast,” said Foster of her studio work. “Or learning how to do unique braids for horsehair bracelets.” She sometimes works with artful collage, or the mesh of Native American Legends and prose hand-lettered on raw surfaces.
In short, she likes to mix things up.
Foster, a native of Memphis, Tenn., earned a Bachelor of Arts (BA) at the University of Arkansas majoring in sculpture. In past years, she has worked as a jeweler setting diamonds — in a dental laboratory making crowns and dentures and in a sign painter’s shop.
“My parents owned an art gallery with frame shop and they encouraged My sisters and I to love both art and music,” said Foster. It was that kind of family life that propelled her to pursue a creative life in the arts and in calligraphy by learning a range of letter style called ‘HANDS.’
In later years, her focus turned to custom-inscribed wedding invitations, and school composites for photography studios. “I eventually learned how to carve letters in stone with a chisel and hammer at a workshop in North Carolina,” said Foster. “Which led me to carve memorial stones for friends’ who had lost a pet, using my alphabet ‘hands’ to reflect the pet’s personality.”
Today, her studio is full of calligraphy and wall-hangings that feature Native American legends, penned on the hides of animal skins or other nature-inspired materials. But it’s the horse-hair braiding of bracelets that gives her time, she says, to relax and unwind with the intricate work.
Since moving to Cedar City in 2011, Foster had to ‘reinvent’ herself. “I would say the culture in Southern Utah is drastically different from my home in Memphis – that’s everything from the social scene, to climate and the landscapes.”
It was a volunteer need at the Dust Devil Horse Sanctuary that led her to another passion. “I’ve always loved animals and worked with Fresh Start Sheltie Rescue in Tennessee, but I was a terrible foster Mom,” added Foster, “since I adopted the ‘fosters’ myself.” She says her husband was delighted with her time at the ranch since she couldn’t bring home a horse.
It was the Sanctuary manager, Ginger Grimes, who offered up a suggestion for a project. “She handed me some strands of horsehair one day and asked if I could braid some for her. When my back went out, I couldn’t muck stalls, so that was the beginning,” said Foster. It wasn’t long before she taught herself a variety of braid styles and how to fashion jewelry braids into bracelets for the ranch or for others.
“Since there was no ‘calligraphy guild’ here, I turned my attention to painting classes and workshops,” said Foster, who eventually joined the Southern Utah Watercolor Society, (SUWS) and served as Vice President for two years. “I knew it was important for me, coming into a new community to find my place – where I could fit in as an artist.”
Over the past few years, Foster has hand-carved memorial stones and continues to hand-braid jewelry for display-venues as well as for local clients.
“I’m starting to do more work that I personally enjoy and want to do as an artist.” She has since earned 1st place recognition for her 2018 painting, ‘Wagon,’ Virgin Valley Artists Association (VVAA) exhibit and 2nd place in the Dixie Watercolor Society exhibit.
She earned 1st place for her 2016, Kolob Viewpoint painting, (SUWS) and 3rd place for her watercolor portrait of two rescue horses, ‘Tiny and Patch.’ Her braided horsehair bracelets are at Juniper Sky Fine Art Gallery, (Kayenta); Burr Trail Outpost (Boulder); Silver Reef Museum (Leeds). Her paintings are on exhibit April 2 to May 12 at Canyon Community Center, (Springdale). See www.runningdogletters.com
While she still uses calligraphy skills in hand-lettered quotes for Shakespeare Festival plays, her work is now printed and displayed at the Iron County Visitor Center. “I have to admit that I’m all over the place when it comes to inspiration, and in what I like to work on as an artist,” said Foster, “And I’m still finding my niche.”
Caption: Carole Foster is a member of the Southern Utah Watercolor Society, (SUWS); the Dixie Watercolor Society, Southern Utah Art Guild (SUAG); Virgin Valley Artists Association (VVAA) and is active in their exhibits. (photo by D. Aerts)